Winter on Grizzly Peak (Ashland, Oregon) 18-Jan-2014

Grizzly Peak Ashland Oregon

We were in Jacksonville, Oregon on personal business and had been sitting in a cold fog bank for two days. We had time for a short hike and, after considering which ones might get us above the gloom, chose Grizzly Peak – just east of Ashland, Oregon [Hike #59 in Sullivan’s Southern Oregon hiking guide, Second Edition]. In a “normal” snow year, this short hike is either not accessible or only accessible with snowshoes or postholing. But this is not a normal year, and we were able to drive a passenger car all the way to the summer trailhead at 5,260 feet!  However, the pit toilet amenity was closed when we got there.

It was 30ºF and foggy in the valley below but 55ºF and clear at the trailhead! From there, we had an amazing view of Mount McLoughlin to the northeast,

Grizzly Peak Ashland Oregon

Mount McLoughlin from the Grizzly Peak trailhead

and the snowy Three Sisters and Crater Lake to the north and east.

Grizzly Peak Ashland Oregon

The Three Sisters and the Crater Lake Rim from the Grizzly Peak trailhead

There were some patches of snow (more like ice) on the trail but, for the most part, it was entirely dirt.

Grizzly Peak Ashland Oregon

Along the icy trail to Grizzly Peak

At over 5,000 feet, we were definitely VFR and I became fascinated (as I often do) with the clouds wafting across the clear, blue sky above.

Grizzly Peak Ashland Oregon

Clouds over Grizzly Peak

The trail makes a loop past the viewless summit and then around the summit plateau, passing through several wide, open meadows on its way around.

Grizzly Peak Ashland Oregon

A meadow on Grizzly Peak’s summit plateau

The biggest snow patch was, predictably, on the north side of the plateau but it was well tracked – this being one of the most popular hikes in the Rogue Valley summer or winter!

Grizzly Peak Ashland Oregon

The trail along the east side of Grizzly Peak

As we came around to the Ashland (western) side of the peak, we could see the results of the wildfire that had raced across the peak’s north ridge in 2002.

Grizzly Peak Ashland Oregon

Snags from the 2002 fire on the north side of Grizzly Peak’s summit plateau

Coming up to the western viewpoint, we could see Medford still mired in the fog and snowy Grayback Mountain off in the distance,

Grizzly Peak Ashland Oregon

The Rogue River Valley from Grizzly Peak

This part of the mountain is covered in snags and a real woodpecker heaven (we heard one but didn’t see it).

Grizzly Peak Ashland Oregon

Woodpecker habitat on Grizzly Peak

From the western viewpoint, we could see Ashland below, Mount Ashland to the right, Mount Shasta to the left, Pilot Knob in the middle, and Black Butte just barely visible to the right of Shasta.

Grizzly Peak Ashland Oregon

Mount Shasta, Pilot Rock, and Mount Ashland from Grizzly (the black dot is a circling Redtail hawk)

Grizzly Peak Ashland Oregon

Mount Shasta (L) and Pilot Rock (R) from Grizzly Peak

I became further captivated (Had I been that long in the fog?) by the amazing cloud formations that were working their way over the peak.

Grizzly Peak Ashland Oregon

Clouds over Grizzly; Brown Mountain to the right

Grizzly Peak Ashland Oregon

Clouds over Grizzly

It was windless, sunny, clear, and warm on the summit but we thought we had time to squeeze in another hike, so we reluctantly headed down.

Grizzly Peak Ashland Oregon

Going back

A very short hike (5.4 miles roundtrip; 750 feet of elevation gain) but with amazing views – short but oh so sweet. We then made a run for the Upper and Lower Table Rocks (the Angels Rest of Medford) but gave it up after the fog closed in (again) and visibility dropped to just a few hundred feet.

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